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My 2020 in miniature painting

In 2020, I became a miniature-painter. Prior to February, I was a guy who sometimes painted miniatures and generally didn’t especially enjoy it. But this year I painted more minis than I had in my 30+ years of sporadic painting prior to 2020 — almost twice as many, in fact. So I’m still a beginner, in many (many!) ways, but not quite as a green as I was before.

All of the miniatures I painted in 2020

Before I get into stats and silly stuff I kept track of, though, I want to pause to write about the pandemic.

Yore isn’t a news or current events blog (there are many better places to go for that sort of info and content), so I haven’t really blogged about the Covid-19 pandemic. This is one of my refuges, and I hope that perhaps it’s been one of yours.

The toll this virus has taken is staggering: over 340,000 dead in the US alone. More than 418,000 Americans died in World War II; that we’re likely to match that total before herd immunity is reached, and with so many of these deaths being preventable, is heartbreaking.

If you’ve lost someone this year, my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what that must be like, in the midst of all of this. If you’ve lost your job, your peace of mind, or any measure of stability, I am so sorry for that loss. Whoever you are, reading this right now, I hope things improve for you and yours.

Miniatures by the numbers

In 2020 I finished painting the following models (I’m not counting assembled, primed, or partially painted minis — just varnished and ready for play):

  • Blood Angels (56):
    • 35 classic Space Marines
    • 10 Terminators
    • 5 Primaris Space Marines
    • 1 Land Raider
    • 1 Rhino
    • 2 Dreadnoughts
    • 2 Teleport Homers
  • Deathskulls Orks, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas (22):
    • 10 Ork Boyz
    • 1 Nob
    • 10 Gretchin
    • 1 Killa Kan
  • Space Hulk (15):
    • 12 Terminators
    • 3 objectives
  • Terrain (4):
    • 1 medium/large Manufactorum piece
    • 3 small Manufactorum pieces
  • Grand total: 97 miniatures

A full quarter of my output was in December, when I set a personal record: 26 miniatures in one month. I know that’s small potatoes for dedicated hobbyists, but it’s a lot for me!

My overall favorite miniature that I painted in 2020 is also my last one of the year: Mukkit, my first Killa Kan. It’s not just recency bias, either; I poured everything I’ve learned about painting into this guy.

Mukkit the Killa Kan

I got out the first miniature I finished in 2020, Brother Scipio from Space Hulk (2/27), and threw them in the lightbox together for a first/last comparison shot:

My first (L) and last minis (R) of 2020

My MVP brush for the year, the Citadel S Layer — which I bought before learning that animal-hair brushes were a thing — finally died at the end of December. I replaced it with a Princeton Velvetouch size 0 Round, an excellent synthetic brush with similar characteristics. This size has become my workhorse, handling everything from edge highlights to base-coating details to eyes.

I spent about 10 months painting 2,200+ points of Blood Angels (November 2020)

I learned a lot about painting this year. I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to continue improving upon. Painting was a real source of joy for me in 2020. Capturing that joy and that learning process here, and hopefully in ways that might be useful to other painters, has been a lot of fun as well.

I like tracking stuff

A few other stats I’ve kept track of:

  • Hobby streak: From the day I started painting again to the end of the year, I maintained an unbroken hobby streak of 314 days. Doing at least a little bit of assembly/priming/painting every day played a huge role in keeping me motivated and moving, and in getting this many minis done.
  • Hand-washing: Since mid-March, I’ve recited my Covid-19 hand-washing mantra — the opening narration for Star Trek: The Next Generation — approximately 950 times. (I don’t, like, log this or anything; I’m backing into my total based on an average of 3x a day since March 12, when we went into isolation.)
  • Audiobooks: Having gotten into audiobooks at the same time as 40k, and explicitly as an accompaniment to painting, I listened to 15 excellent 40k books this year (almost all of them by my favorite author/narrator pairing, Dan Abnett and Toby Longworth). Favorite titles include Ravenor (Ravenor v.1), Necropolis (Gaunt’s Ghosts v.3), and Brothers of the Snake.
  • Movies: I watched 183 movies, 44 of which were 2020 releases. Birds of Prey was my favorite 2020 film, and the last thing I saw in the theater; I hit four viewings by year’s end. (I log and comment on every movie I’ve seen on Letterboxd.)
  • Music: I listened to 52 hours of music, all on Spotify; genre-wise, hip-hop and electronica were my top two. My favorite 2020 releases were Birds of Prey: The Album (various artists), HOUSE OF ZEF (Die Antwoord), and BE (BTS), and dang if that isn’t a decent snapshot of my musical tastes.
  • RPGs: I played 87 RPG sessions, 27 of which were solo. I only played one 2020 release, Brindlewood Bay; it’s a hoot. Unusually, it’s the first game I can remember that both of my groups are playing at the same time.
  • Blogging: I wrote 166 blog posts, about 40% of my total output here on Yore since 2012. 2020 also marks the year when Yore crossed the tipping point from being primarily about tabletop RPGs (166 posts as of December 8) to being primarily about minis and my hobby journey (the 167th minis post was on December 8).

Here’s to 2021

While I doubt we’ll get “back to normal” in 2021, I think things will start to look up in the spring and summer, and playing 40k seems like it could happen next winter. (I’m last in line for the vaccine, as I should be, and my family’s bubble, distancing, mask usage, and other precautions don’t seem likely to change for months.) But there’s ample reason to hope for a better year, and hope for it I do!

Thank you for reading Yore. Stay safe out there.

Categories
Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Karios bases, ZEM brushes, Citadel texture paints, Squad Dolos assembled

I know I’m posting a lot these days — I’ve been blogging for almost 15 years: posting twice a day, for one person, is a lot! — but I’m deep in the joy of this extended moment, of being a novice miniature painter falling in love with this hobby. Everything is new for me right now, even little things — like today’s new little things, blending paints and following a basing recipe.

Plus, you know, the whole family is stuck at home — like yours probably is, if you’re reading this around the post date and not years later. Not to make light of the situation, but late February has turned out to be a serendipitous time to get back into painting miniatures.

The larch

Before diving into today’s WIP post, I want to wish everyone reading this well. I hope you and your families are safe and weathering the COVID-19 pandemic as well as possible.

Yore isn’t a news blog, or really a serious blog at all most of the time. It’s a creative outlet, it’s my hobby space, it’s something I work on when it’s fun. I figure you’ve got COVID-19 stuff coming at you from a million angles, so I’m going to keep doing what I do here: talking way too much about miniatures.

Stay safe out there!

Infiltrators, assemble!

After giving myself what I suspect was a glue-induced headache last night, I changed up my assembly routine a bit. Instead of trimming and gluing in small stages, which is more fun, I’m trimming every piece and then assembling them all at once.

The final four Infiltrators

I’m also sticking newly-glued minis in the bathroom with the window open and the fart fan running. So here’s a bathroom shot of Squad Dolos, fully assembled:

Squad Dolos

Sergeant Dolos is front left; the sub-squad leader (pointing hand) is back center. Since my current Blood Angels list doesn’t have room in it for either of the Infiltrators’ special units, the comms guy or the Helix Adept, I had to get a bit creative with the mini that the kit assumes will be the comms guy. (Weirdly, you don’t get the Helix Adept mini in this kit; it’s only in the Shadowspear box, I believe.) I used two Incursor arms, which are included because this kit lets you build either; he’s the sub-squad leader.

ZEM brushes

I also picked up some inexpensive brushes, a ZEM detail set (paid link), since I’m still pretty bad at taking care of my brushes. I’m getting better! But I’m still not great. These are under $2 each, as compared to a $5-$6 Army Painter brush — and available for delivery, which is handy since my family is sheltering in place for who knows how long.

My new ZEM brushes: 0, 10/0, 2, and 3/0

I used the 0 today and quite liked it. It’s got more bristle tension than some of my other similarly sized brushes, which is handy. After a short painting session, though (just skulls and rocks on 10 bases), the tip looked like this:

From what I’ve read, that “tip curl” is a hallmark of cheap brushes in general and cheap synthetic brushes in particular. Still not a bad brush for the price, but I’m now doubting how much I’ll like the finer-tipped ones — since a curl in those can really wreck detail work.

Basing Squad Karios

My first squad has a post tag of its own (they all do; so far that’s Dolos and Cain), in case you want to follow their journey from box of plastic to fearsome painting Space Marine infantry. Today’s step on that journey, now that their primer is cured, is to paint the little rocks and skulls I glued onto their bases and then apply texture paint.

Sergeant Karios, my test pilot

I don’t have a medium gray in my paint stash at the moment, and I want these rocks to be lighter than the texture paint (Astrogranite Debris) but darker than the drybrush color I’m going to use (Grey Seer). So: it’s blending time!

I did a 50:50 blend of Corax White and Mechanicus Standard Grey, thinned it with a bit of water, and went to town.

Rocks: done!

I use a dry palette, so I had to mix up a new batch after about five guys — which is fun, because the little variations in my batches will ensure that my rocks don’t all look like they came from Rocks ‘R’ Us. It tickles me to no end that the best way to get actual rocks to look like they belong with a miniature is . . . to paint them to look like rocks.

Next up were the skulls, in Corax White, followed by a quick Agrax Earthshade wash on them and the rocks.

Rocks and skulls: done

And after that, the texture paint. I gather than Citadel has reformulated this stuff in the past few years, and merged it into their Technical line (it’s no longer actually called Texture), with one of the results being that you can apply it with a brush. But as soon as I opened my pot of it, I was glad I had the Citadel Texture Spreader (paid link): the Astrogranite Debris is a thick, slightly dry paste.

I used the small end of the spreader for all of these. The large end looks ideal for wider bases, but on these I needed the little paddle.

Sergeant Karios

This stuff is fun. Like, really fun. I’m applying it now so I can wash and drybrush without ruining my minis’ legs, but lots of folks apply it last. Using the tiny end of the spreader I was able to manipulate the paint easily enough that I’d have felt just as comfortable doing with a fully painted mini.

After each one, I ran my finger around the edge of the base to corral any loose grit. (Once the whole mini is done I’ll paint the base edges, of course.)

Three down

This paint also feels like cheating. It’s a bit like the magic that occurs when you apply a wash to a base-coated miniature — poof, it suddenly looks a million times better.

Squad Karios, set to dry overnight

Even having not done the finishing steps yet (wash the texture paint > drybrush it and the rocks/skulls > possibly highlight the skulls > add tufts), these are already the best-looking bases I’ve ever done. Miles ahead of my past efforts with just glue and little rocks — and that’s 100% down to this paint. I love this stuff!

That’s probably it for tonight’s hobby session — but damn, this one felt good. As a proof of concept for my “plains of Armageddon” basing recipe, the rocks don’t stand out as much as I’d like — though I’m betting a nice light-colored drybrush will help — but otherwise I’m calling this concept proven. I can’t wait to see what it looks like after the whole process is complete!